New York Lawmakers: Let Police Analyze Cell Phones After Serious Crashes
A bipartisan proposal in New York's state legislature would give law enforcement a new tool to combat distracted driving. The device, nicknamed a "Textalyzer", can determine whether a smartphone was being used around the time of the crash.
"I have often heard there is no such thing as a breathalyzer for distracted driving - so we created one," said Ben Lieberman, co-founder of Distracted Operators Risk Casualties, an awareness group focused on eliminating distracted driving.
Lieberman started the group after his 19-year-old son Evan died in a 2011 collision caused by a distracted driver. The bill, sponsored by New York State Senator Terrence Murphy and Assembly Assistant Speaker Felix Ortiz, would be known as "Evan's Law."
"The general public knows distracted driving is a problem, but if people knew the extent of the damage caused by this behavior, they would be amazed," Lieberman said. "With our current laws, we're not getting accurate information because the issue is not being addressed at the heart of the problem - with the people causing the collisions."
Lieberman understands privacy concerns come with such a device that gives law enforcement the power to search a phone. However, the Textalyzer doesn't access content, keeping conversations, contacts, numbers, photos, and application data private.
"Respecting drivers' personal privacy is also important, and we are taking meticulous steps to not violate those rights," he said.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports texting and driving is six times more dangerous than driving under the influence. Research from the AAA Foundation finds that two-thirds of all drivers still use their cell phones while driving, despite knowing its inherent risk.
"When people were held accountable for drunk driving, that's when positive change occurred. It's time to recognize that distracted driving is a similar impairment, and should be dealt with in a similar fashion. This is a way to address people who are causing damage." Lieberman said.